Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


Posted by , on May 7th, 2014

Homeless people often suffer from a wide range of problems beyond the immediate and obvious lack of accommodation, food and warm clothing.

The biggest single cause of homelessness in the UK is relationship breakdown, which is evidently a distressing factor in its own right. Compounding this, homelessness brings with it uncertainty, anxiety, isolation, trauma and possibly abuse – all of which have adverse health effects, both emotionally and physically. Above all, it’s about loss. Losing a home, a sense of belonging, a support network, security, self-respect, and many other things.

It’s no wonder then that many homeless people have mental health issues, in particular depression, which may have directly contributed to or been brought about by their homelessness. Incredibly rough sleepers are 35 times more likely to commit suicide than the rest of the population. Even among those who aren’t rough-sleeping and live in temporary accommodation, over 70 per cent admit to being depressed, according to Shelter.

Many suffer from addiction issues that have often been exacerbated by living on the streets. Crime and violence against homeless people are not uncommon either, meaning that rough sleepers especially live in fear of being attacked. What all of this means is that the average homeless person will have undoubtedly suffered some degree of physical and emotional trauma. Trauma that needs to be worked through.

Counselling is just one of the ways we can help homeless people work through the issues they have and ultimately rebuild their lives. It can be instrumental in breaking the dependency caused by alcohol and drug abuse, combatting self-esteem problems and depression, and tackling unhealthy patterns of behaviour that hinder recovery.

Since our formation in 1994, Mustard Tree have helped many people get their lives back on track through our Freedom and Dignity projects, which have included an in-house counselling service for the last three years. Some of stories from people who have taken part in the projects give an insight into how our clients are feeling when they come to us. They reveal the types of problems that we try to address with counselling, including depression, coping with loss, and addiction:

“When I first started volunteering at the Mustard Tree I was an alcoholic. The Freedom Project team have provided me with a mentor, a recovered alcoholic himself, who I meet up with every week. They also referred me onto one of the Mustard Tree counsellors, who I have been meeting with weekly. Thanks to these avenues of support I have now been sober for 11 months.”

“I wanted to get back into a working routine after a long period doing almost nothing. During that time I had been getting more and more depressed and I needed to break that cycle. Up until early last year, I was still planning suicide and things were pretty bleak.”

“Before coming to the Mustard Tree I had been through a string of major life changes. I finished my degree, my mum passed away, my mentor (who was a significant person to me) also passed away and I split up from my long-term girlfriend. I was left in a situation where I felt like I had no life. I’d been a carer, a student and a partner, and all that had gone. When you lose all the things that define you, it is an awful place to be.”

You can read the full Life Stories here to get a better idea of the state of mind of our clients and the types of problems that our counsellors deal with.

We currently have one fully trained counsellor, Melanie Camu, who runs our Ancoats-based service, assisted by two trainee counsellors. Counselling takes place at Mustard Tree three times a week. Currently the service can only be accessed by our Freedom and Dignity Project participants, as part of the work we do in assisting them to rebuild their lives.

We are looking to expand this service in the near future by adding additional qualified volunteer counsellors to the team. If you have the spare time to give to our clients, we would very much like to hear from you. Please contact for further information.

Written by Jamie Faulkner, FireCask

The Importance of Soup Runs

Posted by , on April 30th, 2014

Soup runs, or soup kitchens, have a longstanding place in the mainstream provision for homeless people.

It is thought that the first soup runs emerged in the late 18th century and were invaluable over the following centuries, especially during economic crises like the Irish Famine and the Great Depression. The global financial crisis and subsequent austerity measures have seen an increase in the use of soup kitchens as more people find themselves in vulnerable financial situations.

Despite their good intentions, soup runs have met with criticism over the years. In 1834 soup kitchens were actually made illegal in Britain under the Poor Law Amendment Act, partly because they attracted so-called vagrants. The most notable recent censure was Westminster’s planned ban of soup runs (as well as rough sleeping) around Westminster cathedral in 2011. The plans were eventually dropped, but they demonstrate the ongoing strength of feeling against the practice of giving free hot food to those on the streets.

In what has become an increasingly polarised debate, those against soup runs claim that such activities encourage dependency, serve many people who are not homeless, and even sustain rough sleeping. For their part, soup-run organisers have countered that they are feeding some of the most vulnerable people in society and responding to an immediate need.

Given the endemic food poverty in Britain and the drastic increase in the number of foodbanks, it’s clear that there are more people than just the homeless who can and should benefit from soup runs.  Most soup runs are indiscriminate in whom they serve and admit that they are aware that many of their users are not rough sleepers or homeless.

At Mustard Tree we see the benefit that soup runs can have. Each and every Friday evening, between 7 and 9pm, we serve hot, nutritious meals at our Ancoats headquarters. We cater for around 70 people who not only live on the streets, but also in hostels or other types of temporary accommodation.

And while we realise that soup runs can’t address all the issues of the attendees, we also know that they do much more than simply feed. To those who might be isolated and marginalised, they offer an opportunity to talk and socialise. We can also talk about the work that the charity does, and point them in the direction of other services that can help, as well signpost them to the Mustard Tree headquarters where they can receive blankets and warm clothing.

Furthermore, soup runs act as fundamental first step in starting relationships with clients; a chance, albeit brief, to develop a trusting relationship that may help in the future. It could be the vital link between providing people with a hand-out, and giving them the opportunity to receive a hand-up from one of our other services.

We are always looking for volunteers to help on these soup runs. If you’re interested in becoming involved, you can find out more information on our volunteering page.

And if you, or someone you know, are in desperate need of food, you can download our soup kitchen dates and times document.

Written by Jamie Faulkner, FireCask

Generosity in an age of Austerity

Posted by , on April 28th, 2014


A Thank you to Graphics and Print

Posted by , on April 24th, 2014

As a charity, we continually rely on the goodwill and generosity of many individuals and organisations. Over recent years, a number of businesses have increasingly helped us out in a variety of creative ways.

One such organisation we’d like to thank is Graphics and Print. The banner at the top of our website, with the amazing collage of Mustard Tree volunteers, supporters and staff, was created by them, and if you remember the old site you can see how much of an improvement it is. They have even created a huge version of it that has been mounted on the wall in our first floor central space.

G&P Wall Banner.JPG

On top of this, Graphics and Print have created marketing materials for several of our events. They’re also in the middle of creating brand new leaflets for us, which will undoubtedly look fantastic, and they’ve chosen us as their official charity to support. And, as if that wasn’t enough, they’ve been promoting a food drive for the last couple of weeks to help raise supplies our food stores! (If you or your business want to contribute too, please bring items from our essential foods list to our HQ at 110 Oldham Road, Ancoats, Manchester, M4 6AG).

G&P Food Drive2 2014.jpg

We’re very humbled by this support and the difference it makes to Mustard Tree’s image. So, once again, a big thanks to Graphics and Print for all their work over the last couple of years. We truly value partnerships such as this as we couldn’t do what we do without them.

Written by Jamie Faulkner, FireCask

The James Hardy Music Project Launch

Posted by , on April 15th, 2014

On March 27 Mustard Tree officially launched the James Hardy Music Project. It was a wonderful evening of song and celebration, tinged with sadness but full of hope.

The project takes its name from a former client of Mustard tree who sadly took his own life. James was a talented guitarist and this project will aim not only to honour his memory but also to teach clients the skills needed to make their own music, by providing all the equipment and information they need. And we hope that the process of making music will have a positive influence, helping clients become part of a community and family.

James Hardy.JPGJames playing the guitar – something he loved to do.

Tony Hardy, James’ father, made a moving and impassioned speech about his son’s life, talking openly about his struggles with depression and drug addiction, and how he found pleasure and solace in music. To Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young”, Tony played the same slideshow that was played at James’ funeral, a beautiful collection of images that followed him from a young boy to a grown man. James’s aunt also came forward to speak of his resourcefulness and kindness, as well as his passion for music.

Adrian Nottingham, the CEO of Mustard Tree, spoke about plans for the future, when the project will have a bigger home with a both a live room and recording room thanks to the music studio’s expansion. He also touched upon how our various projects are a “creative way of starting a conversation” and that the conversation can itself “open a door that will open other doors”.

Geoff McGuire, who voluntarily runs the 10-week Electronic Music Production Course for the project, talked about how he became involved with Mustard Tree after a Make a Difference Day with his employer Barclays; and Graham Hudson, our Creative Programmes manager, recalled his fond memories of James, who would often sit and play guitar in the art studio.

As a fitting example of the music project’s potential, there was an impressive performance from Ntokozo, one of Mustard Tree’s clients. He had written a rap to accompany the track that had been created during the Electronic Music Production Course by Geoff and our clients. You can watch a video of Ntokozo performing his rap on Youtube.

James Hardy 7.JPG

To cap off the evening, Tony, who works for Lifeline,  talked about his own experiences with addiction and played some of his own acoustic songs.

Mustard Tree would like to thank all those who attended as well as James’s family and the performers. And let’s not forget the wonderful volunteers who put on such a great spread!

Written by Jamie Faulkner, FireCask

Swishing Event

Posted by , on April 14th, 2014

From 1-3pm on Saturday 26 April at Eccles Town Hall, Mustard Tree will be holding our first ever Swishing event.

For those of you who haven’t heard of swishing, it can be described as a sustainable, eco-friendly, and fun way to simultaneously update your wardrobe and get rid of your unwanted clothes. Whether you’ve been stockpiling shoes or hoarding hoodies, this is the time to do something about it.

When you come to our event, bring along any clothes you no longer wear, like, or have a use for (just make sure they’re clean and presentable) and you can exchange them for clothes brought by other people. We’ll give you one raffle ticket for every item of clothing you provide, and you can exchange this ticket for another item of your choice.

Entry to the event will cost only £1 and all proceeds will go to Mustard Tree. Any of your items of clothing that don’t get picked will be donated to our shops, unless you would prefer to keep them, in which case just let us know and we’ll give them back to you at the end of the event.

Set up by London-based Futerra, swishing has become popular over the last few years, with events being held across the country. It’s been covered in Vogue and Grazia, and even featured on the Radio 4’s the Archers last year.

Written by Jamie Faulkner, FireCask

Swishing Event Poster

A Donation from UKPOS

Posted by , on March 20th, 2014

Mustard Tree was delighted to receive a very generous donation from the UK Point of Sale Group. The organisation, who are the UK’s No.1 p.o.s. manufacturer, gifted £200 worth of their stock to our Ancoats shop, including 4 bump bins, 4 poster holders, 1 tagging gun, 1 barrier post and 1 A1 A-board.

Many of these items would be perfect for small business in the area, with the a-board and poster holders in particular being ideal for showcasing promotional material. The tagging gun, designed for putting labels on garments, would be extremely useful for small clothes manufacturers. We’re sure that it won’t be long before someone gives them a new home, so head down to our shop soon to avoid being disappointed!

Mustard Tree shops rely on generous donations from individuals and businesses throughout the region and we are always looking for more contributions. The proceeds made from the sale of items in our shop go directly to helping the charity and its clients, and the many projects we run, from the Ready for Work Club to the Freedom Project.

UKPOS’s Georgia Jameson said: “We’re delighted to be able to offer assistance to Mustard Tree which provides such vital support to those who are homeless or marginalised across the north west. There are numerous reasons why people find themselves homeless – sadly, mental health issues for example still carry a stigma, leaving people feeling vulnerable, afraid to seek help and ultimately alienated. We’re very proud to support local charities who are working so hard to turn lives around.”

Mustard Tree extends a huge thankyou to the UK Point of Sale Group for their kind donation and their support.

Written by Jamie Faulkner, FireCask

Big Sweep Blog

Posted by , on March 7th, 2014

On 27 February Mustard Tree led its quarterly community litter pick, the Ancoats Big Sweep, to give the streets a much-needed makeover.

The sweep was a great success ( not just in terms of the amount of litter collected!) and we couldn’t have done it without the help of our partners Northward Housing, who contributed equipment, manpower and a very welcome cup of tea and slice of cake when it was all done.

A huge thanks also goes out to all the litter-picking volunteers for their efforts, camaraderie, and simply giving up their time to clean up a good stretch of Manchester’s streets.

As well as tackling the litter problem, the sweep is a great way for our Freedom & Dignity clients to get involved in a community-minded initiative, get active, and generally socialise.

Anyone who has travelled in Europe, and elsewhere, will quickly realise that the UK is one of the most heavily littered countries, and community-led projects like the Ancoats Big Sweep can do a great deal to reduce the problem. Keep an eye on our twitter for the next one.

If you live in an area where littering is a problem, there are a few things you can do about it:

  • Report heavily littered streets and roads to the Council, who are obligated to pick it up
  • Start your very own litter-picking initiative and get the local community involved
  • Write to your MP (using Write to Them is an easy way to do this) and ask them to introduce deposits for cans and bottles
  • Write to McDonalds and chain fast-food outlets (or even talk to local independent takeaways) about what they’re doing to combat the problem
  • Pick it up yourself (and don’t worry about the strange looks!)

(Thanks to the Litter Heroes website for these ideas)

Mentoring at Mustard Tree

Posted by , on February 27th, 2014

Benjamin Franklin once said: “Tell me and I forget; teach me and I may remember; involve me and I learn.”

Roughly two centuries later, educational theorist and social psychologist David A. Kolb was developing the Experiential Learning Model based on the idea that concrete experience is the best way for us to learn about a subject – the ‘getting involved’ that Franklin was talking about. This is in direct contrast to standard academic learning, where the main focus is on passive and reproductive learning.

Of course, people learn in different ways and benefit from different styles and approaches, but often it’s much easier with some sort of teacher or mentor who can help guide us. The beauty of a mentoring approach is that it is flexible and can be personalised for each individual. Whether it’s learning a language, keeping fit, or making decisions about our future, having time with someone who has already acquired the skills or the life experience to inform the learning process is incredibly useful. In other words, a good mentor can make a world of difference.

The mentor-mentee relationship is a personal one. In this respect, mentors can be a tremendous force for positive change and can assume many identities: role models, consultants, problem solvers or an element of a support network. One excellent but wonderfully simple definition of a mentor is “a professional friend.”

In an article for the Times Higher Education website on the power of mentors, Tom Pailama, professor of classics at the University of Austin in Texas, writes that personal interactions between students and mentors have “helped many of us figure out how we would face our lives ahead… Mentors inspire us and get inside our minds. They let us see who they are and why and how they are who they are, even when they don’t know they are doing so.”

You might well be wondering what all this has to do with a charity that helps and supports the homeless and marginalised? Well, as part of our Freedom Project, Mustard Tree runs a mentoring scheme that we believe provides an extra level of support for those on the programme. Our mentors aim to give our Freedom Project participants the guidance and encouragement that will help them achieve their goals at Mustard Tree and beyond. They work on a one-to-one basis with mentees and, for around an hour a week, help them to achieve targets, such as learning a specific skill, maintaining freedom from an addiction or becoming more work-ready.

At the moment we have reached our capacity for volunteer mentors, so we are not currently accepting new applications. However, this situation could change at any time, and we would like to keep your details on file if you are happy with this. If so, please email with your name and a contact number.

We are  always on the lookout for “Skills Mentors” who can help our clients with employability and the job-seeking process on a less frequent basis. If you’d like to get involved with this aspect of Mustard Tree, then get in touch with Johnny Bushell at or call him in 07971 859426.

By supporting the Freedom Project in this way it is very likely that you’ll make a positive difference in someone’s life and, like Tom Palaima wrote, that person will remember you as someone who helped them face their life ahead.

Written by Jamie Faulkner, FireCask


Ready For Work Club

Posted by , on February 21st, 2014

The controversial Channel 4 documentary Benefits Street has its detractors, and rightly so. It feeds into the stereotypes many people have about benefits claimants and misrepresents true conditions. However, in the third episode of the series it showed young father Mark reluctantly going to a work readiness club held at the local church. Albeit briefly, it gave a small glimpse into how those who have had very few jobs or have been long-term unemployed might feel.

Mark’s behaviour seemed indicative of many people in his situation: low self-esteem, a fear of being different to those in his community, assumptions that there were no jobs and that he would be instantly rejected, and a near inability to think of any life-achievements to put down on a CV. His frustration is evident when a volunteer, looking for work himself, tries to push him to consider his skills. And Mark, though he has plenty of pressures, is not homeless, at least.

So, imagine the bigger picture for a moment: the challenges that face even confident job-seekers, people who completed secondary or even higher education. Then take into account how difficult it must be for someone who has had little or no experience of work to jump through all the hoops required for securing a job these days: searching for vacancies, writing a cover letter and CV, filling out applications, passing tests, interviews and assessment days. Furthermore, think about trying to find work while having no fixed abode or living in temporary accommodation.

It’s for that reason that Mustard Tree runs our Ready for Work Club. Founded in September 2011 and run in partnership with Business in the Community, this weekly club teaches current volunteers skills ranging from good interview techniques and CV writing to basic IT skills and online application help. It brings together job-hunters so they can build contacts and share experiences. Mustard Tree and BITC staff, as well as our dedicated skills mentors, aim to improve our clients’ employability in an environment that helps to foster feelings of self-worth. It also helps to prevent job-seeking from becoming the isolating experience it can frequently feel like.

We also realise that just improving someone’s ability to look for and secure a job is only part of the challenge. That’s why we also run plenty of schemes that are designed to encourage a sense of community and help people to develop more than just work skills. Whether it’s our Electronic Music Production Course or our art workshops, our clients have opportunities to be creative and discover unrealised potential.

As John Studzinski, former chairman of Business Action on Homelessness, says about homeless people dropping out of work after six months. “They had a job, they were reasonably integrated into their working environment, but they were living alone in bedsits, which they found as socially disconnected as the earlier environment in shared hostels.”

At Mustard Tree we provide the foundations so that, hopefully, this doesn’t happen. To find out more about how we support the homeless and try to rebuild lives, take a look round our site where, if you feel moved to, you can also make a donation. If you’re a business, perhaps you can donate some time or skills to those looking for work as part of our Corporate Support program?

Written by Jamie Faulkner, FireCask